Mark Watches ‘Farscape’: S03E17 – The Choice

In the seventeenth episode of the third season of Farscape, this show is not content to break my heart over something once. They have to do it repeatedly. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape.

Trigger Warning: For grief/loss.

Jesus fucking Christ, what a bleak episode.

I am satisfied – strangely so – that the show has not ignored what a monumental loss Aeryn is facing here. Despite how rude it is that this entire episode is one giant exercise in ripping out my heart, I appreciate it. It needed to happen, and we needed to see how Aeryn was going to work through the loss of Crichton. It’s an immensely challenging story, one that Claudia Black jumps into with dedication and skill as she portrays Aeryn as apathetic, uncaring, raw, and furious. There’s an incredible range for her character over the course of “The Choice,” and all of it is set against a backdrop of squalor and desperation.

In short, all the pieces fit together in this tragedy.

And really, there’s no other way for me to see this than a tragedy. No one gets what they want, there’s virtually no closure provided for us or for these characters, and the one modicum of hope in this episode is literally dropped out of a window. Thanks, Farscape. WHY DO I KEEP DOING THIS TO MYSELF.


Goddamn, Valdun is unsettling. It’s the perfect setting for a character study like this because Aeryn Sun becomes another lost, forgotten person here, at least until she is found by a procession of people she wants nothing to do with. The place is full of beggars, mystics, mercenaries, and people promising the desperate in order to make enough money for a meal or to help them fight for a space to sleep each night. I almost got a sense that this was a Blade Runner-style noir from the few characters we met or from the glimpses of the main city we got from Aeryn’s balcony. EXCELLENT JOB, FARSCAPE, YOU DO WORLDBUILDING SO WELL.

Revisiting the past

I know from coping with my own grief over the loss of a loved one that there’s a haunting quality to reliving past moments. Aeryn cycles through multiple memories she has of Crichton during her time spent on Valdun, starting with the events of “The Locket.” That memory in particular was a soul-crushing one to relive first, because that was Crichton and Aeryn living together until old age, something she won’t be able to do anymore. (I’m super confused by this, though, because only Zhaan and Stark remember the events of that episode, right? Wasn’t that the whole point of it? So did they just come rushing back in Aeryn’s grief?) And really, that’s the common pattern here: Aeryn ponders a future with Crichton by remembering the past. It’s… god, y’all, it’s so awful to watch! I know what this experience feels like to go through, and I know how it traps you and pulls you in.

That’s what we see from Aeryn. As she entertains the notion of speaking to Crichton again and then her own father, we have to accept that she’s in a hopeless, painful place. Her dress has changed. Her behavior is sluggish at times or violent at others. And despite that she knows better (or would know better in another circumstance), she continues down this depressing, grim path.

The past revisiting 

God, I love the way that this episode toys with us so openly. I didn’t really question the fact that Aeryn was imagining Crichton beside her, but once Stark heard Zhaan and then Talyn reveals that he was hiding here, too, I had to start suspecting that there was something deeply wrong with this place. Rygel had warned the others that this place was full of frauds, but was there something mystical or supernatural going on as well?

Of course, I thought this because apropos of nothing, Xhalax Sun was on the screen, and that was fucking impossible.

So was this place making Aeryn hallucinate people she wanted to see more than anyone else? How was it possible that so many dead people were making contact with others? I thought Xhalax Sun was dead what the fuck. But we knew that fraud was common, so there’s almost nothing here that’s unexplainable. The past comes back to haunt everyone, not just Aeryn. Because Crais spared Xhalax’s life in order to prevent high command knowing they were all alive, Xhalax is able to stalk and manipulate Aeryn. (I assume she must have been following Aeryn for some time, given that she was able to set up this long con for her.) Because Crichton’s death is fresh on Aeryn’s mind, she refuses to listen to her friends, all of whom care about her and want to help her, but who maybe don’t quite understand what it is she’s going through. Even though she says she never believed Talyn was her actual father, he still represents an element of her past that’s drenched in tragedy.


Perhaps nothing represents her past coming back to her than Xhalax’s con, though. From Tayln to Cresus, Xhalax organizes this whole thing specifically to make Aeryn suffer. It’s undeniably cruel and senseless, especially since Xhalax had planned to kill her daughter regardless. So why attempt to make her believe she can contact Crichton? Why give her a man she is supposed to believe is her father? Well, it was all so that Xhalax could take it away from her. She would “shoot” Talyn and kill Aeryn before she had a chance to talk to her dead lover, despite that it wasn’t even possible to begin with. This is all done because Xhalax blames Aeryn for all her own problems. WHICH IS SO HEARTBREAKING TO ME BECAUSE IT’S ACTUALLY THE PEACEKEEPER’S FAULT BUT XHALAX CAN’T EVEN SEE THAT. But it’s convenient to blame Talyn’s murder on Aeryn’s existence. It’s convenient to blame the difficulties she’s had with Peacekeeper command on Aeryn, too. The same goes for her amputated leg.

Xhalax’s revenge seemed so complete, but that ends up being the main problem. It’s too good, and she finds that it was strangely cathartic. It’s a cruel thing to need, but it worked, and that’s what Aeryn focuses on. I’m in awe of how the final scene on the ledge of that building unfolded because it was such a subtle way of communicating something much larger. There was a possibility there, albeit one that was slim and complicated. There was a chance that Xhalax was finally ready to take a step away from the culture that had made her a careless assassin, that she had accepted the value of love in the world, and that killing her daughter was a bad thing.

And then Crais believes he is saving the day and he shoots Xhalax in the chest.

“Do it. Let me go. I died a long time ago. You live for me.”

Thanks. Thanks for this and thanks for the pain you have given me, Farscape. But was it enough to kill off Xhalax at this point, right after Aeryn lost Crichton? Nope, because now Stark has left the ship to find the source of Talyn’s voice, and Crais is determined to pass on control of Talyn, and everything is painful and it hurts, and this show is so goddamn rude.


The video for “The Choice” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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